Volume 56 Number 57
                   Produced: Sun May 17 11:07:44 EDT 2009

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Birchat Hachamah (3)
        [Ben Katz, Michael Gerver, B Lemkin]
Bracha on Mail Jewish (2)
        [S. Wise, Jeanette Friedman]
Diskin orphan home
        [Menashe Elyashiv]
Kotel (was Birtcat HaChama)
        [Leah Aharoni]
New Web Directory of Torah Audio Shiurim
        [Joel Rich]
Question regarding saying the Viduy before tahanun on weekdays (2)
        [Menashe Elyashiv, Martin Stern]
Sefer Query
        [Daniel Geretz]


From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Thu, May 14, 2009 at 12:19 PM
Subject: RE: Birchat Hachamah

From: Robert Schoenfeld <frank_james@...>

> Interesting enough at least 2 ancient civilizations used a 56 year
> cycle between the sun and the moon One was the neolithic one in
> Britian and the other was the Mayas. The Maya long count was of the 56
> year cycle and their short count was our year. Both were more acurate
> than even the current Gregorian civil calender and equal to our
> calender

The above post makes no sense to me.

It is extremely unlikely that any ancient civilization could come up
with a more accurate calendar than the Gregorian (unless you believe
they were Divinely inspired). Also, "our" calendar, by which I assume
Mr.  Schoenfeld means the current Jewish calendar, is NOT particularly
accurate (it is off about 0.75 days per hundred years, which is why the
traditional time to insert vetayn tal umatar moves up about a day a

From: Michael Gerver <mjgerver@...>
Date: Sat, May 16, 2009 at 6:34 PM
Subject: Birchat Hachamah

<wgewirtz@...>, in v56n53, writes:

> On 1: birchat hachmah is further off than the Julian calendar ~ 16 days
> versus ~19. This may be a major issue/hint. A mathematican in israel
> in an article in the Jerusalem post i believe, happened to to answer
> this in manner that is IMHO is a tad less than believable.

I don't know what explanation was given in the article, but I believe it
can be explained as follows. The vernal equinox in the Julian calendar
was set at March 21 by the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, and the Gregorian
calendar was set up to also have the vernal equinox on March 21. Since
the Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar differ by 1 day every 133
years, the Julian calendar is now off from the Gregorian calendar by
(2009 - 325)/133 = 13 days, approximately. The solar calendar of Shmuel,
which is used to define the date of Birchat Hachamah, was similar to the
Julian calendar (i.e. 365 day years with one leap day added every 4
years), but had the vernal equinox on March 25, about 4 days later than
the astronomical vernal equinox. Since Shmuel lived about 100 years
before the Council of Nicea, his calendar has also drifted by one day
more than the Julian calendar, and the calendar of Shmuel is now off by
about 18 days from the Gregorian calendar, with the vernal equinox on
April 8. The question is why Shmuel's vernal equinox was 4 days later
than the astronomical vernal equinox when he set it up. Though I don't
know the answer to this question, my guess is that he was using a Greek
calculation that was correct around 300 or 400 BCE, and had since drifted
off by 4 days. It is worth noting that the standard way of numbering
years in contracts in Shmuel's time, both in the Jewish and non-Jewish
world, was the Seleucid era, which began in 312 BCE. It is also worth
noting that the Greek astronomer Meton, who established a lunar calendar
with 235 months in 19 years, similar to the Hebrew lunar calendar, is
said to have made an accurate measurement of the summer solistice in 432
BCE, and used it as the basis for his calendar.

Also in v56n53, Hillel Markowitz writes:

> In any case the whole setup of birchas hachama was to have a
> celebration in such a way that everyone could have several during
> their lifetimes and not because it was the exact same day.

Not everyone, rachmana atzlan, but for most people this is true. If this
is the aim, then it is possible to have a system in which Birchat
Hachamah occurs once every 28 years on average, but only occurs on the
actual (astronomical) vernal equinox. In this system, which was suggested
to me by my friend (and "Kiddush HaChodesh" chevrusa a couple of years
ago) Phil Jerichower, whenever the actual vernal equinox occurs between 6
pm and midnight, Tuesday night, Jerusalem local time, Birchat Hachamah
would be said the following morning. This would occur at irregular
intervals (but with long range order) of 21, 28, and occasionally 49
years. Phil also suggested only saying it in sight of the ocean (other
than the Mediterranean), or high mountains, when one would say the bracha
"oseh ma'aseh breishit" anyway, to avoid any question of saying a bracha
mevatala, because it is not being said on the traditional date for
Birchat Hachamah. Though I think one could make a case that it is
consistent with the gemara, especially if lots of people started doing
it, so that it became the established minhag.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel

From: B Lemkin <lemkinrealty2@...>
Date: Thu, May 14, 2009 at 6:05 AM
Subject: Birchat Hachamah

HaRav David Bar-Hayim wrote a small piece on why he did not say
birkath hachamah which can be found at:


B Lemkin


From: S. Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Fri, May 15, 2009 at 3:38 PM
Subject: Re: Bracha on Mail Jewish


While your sentiments abut mail-Jewish are admirable, I think one should
leave it up to a Rabbi to decide whether it is worthy of Birchas
Ha-Torah. One needs to know what qualifies for the brachah, and while
there is Torah in mail-Jewish, sometimes there are topics and items that
are not. Besides, as others have mentioned, one usually recites the
berachah in the morning, upon rising. In any case, like any other things
in doubt, and the berachah with the pisukim that follow assure that one
learns right after reciting the berachah. So what circumstance do you
envision of saying L'asok b'divre Torah alone?

S. Wise

From: Jeanette Friedman <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Fri, May 15, 2009 at 12:45 AM
Subject: Re: Bracha on Mail Jewish

At least I am in good company, and we are, of course, doing modern day
"Writing" even if it is typing... so it certainly wouldn't be a brocha
levatalah. :-)

     Now to be fair to Jeanette, the B"H does quote the Gra who, it
     seems, holds like Jeanette that since thinking in Torah is still
     clearly the mitzvah, the bracha should fairly be said on thinking
     in Torah.



From: Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...>
Date: Fri, May 15, 2009 at 2:56 AM
Subject: Diskin orphan home

J. Ginzburg wrote:

In the early '60s, there was a Yerushalmi belief that the Diskin
Orphanage, at the time still in it's original location on Rechov
Yechezkel at the time, made an important contribution to halacha.

The orphan home on the Yalin corner Yehzkel is Blumanthal orphan
home. It is functioning to this day, but not all of the kids are
orphans, most come from brokken homes. It never goes on vacation. Part
of the campus is rented to a Yeshiva founded by R. Malka z"l. (my son
studied there some years ago)


From: Leah Aharoni <leah25@...>
Date: Thu, May 14, 2009 at 5:33 AM
Subject: RE: Kotel (was Birtcat HaChama)

Jeanette wrote:

> A young lady from Yerushalyim asked me a few months ago, "How could
> Yiddishkeit possibly survive without the Kotel?" I pointed out to her
> that the Wall is not Yiddishkeit and that we had survived for more than
> 2,000 years without it...after all, the Wall is NOT the Beis Hamikdash!
> What is it that I do not understand when someone tells me that she was
> taught in Beis Yaakov that her Yiddishkeit is invested in old
> rocks instead of Torah?
> Why are children being taught that the Kotel (and owning it) IS
> our Judaism? Even the Pope and the President put kvitlach in the
> Wall--yet there are rabbonim who do not believe in kvitlach....

While I completely agree with Jeanette that true Yiddishkeit focuses on
the values we practice and not on the Kotel, I think that this tangible
(albeit distant) remnant of the Beit Hamikdash was crucially important
during the galut as a concrete object of yearning, a reminder that
Jewish existence in galut is incomplete. May be that was the reason why
after the destruction Hashem left us with a tiny part of the Beit
Hamikdash complex.

People have a need for tangibility even in their spirituality. This is
the underlying reason for the power of idol worship. I think Judaism
recognizes this need. The Gemara tells that that when Chazal decided to
do away with the yetzer hara for idol worship, it appeared as a lion of
fire leaving the Holy of Holies. Moreover, Hashem commands us to go up
to the Beit Hamikdash three times a year to experience Yiddishkeit
through our senses.

Leah Aharoni
AQText Translation Services
Email: <leah25@...>
Skype: leah.aharoni


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Fri, May 15, 2009 at 5:21 AM
Subject: New Web Directory of Torah Audio Shiurim

> I would like to share with the Mail-Jewish readers a new site that I have
> put together:
> ListenandLearnTorah.com
> A comprehensive directory of web sites that offer Torah learning that
> you can listen to. Each reviewed site features a screenshot,
> information, and user comments. Free and paid sites are featured. The
> best way to get started taking learning on the go. 93 listings and
> growing!
> There are no fees, no ads, purely lishmah.
> Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

Some may be interested in the audio roundup column found on R' Gil
Student's Hirhurim blog ( http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/) which includes
some quirky reviews and summaries of individual audio shiurim available
on the web.

Joel Rich


From: Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...>
Date: Fri, May 15, 2009 at 3:17 AM
Subject: Question regarding saying the Viduy before tahanun on weekdays

The facts are:

The original tahanun did not include 13 midot or veduy, they were said
only at selihot on Yom Kippur & fasts etc.
The Sefardi minhag added them everyday, also because of kabbla reasons.
Ashkenaz never added them.

About 200 years ago, a new nusash was created, based on Ashkenaz with
Sefardi additions. This hybrid is called Sefard, and replaced Ashkenaz
in many places. AKA nusah ahid in the IDF.  Vidduy & 13 midot slipt into
some Ashkenaz on Mondays & Thursdays, like other changes (e.g. - Kabbalt
Shabbat, Brich Shemai).  There is no viduy in Sefaradi Selihot! It is
said before Selihot.  This is the base of the question: mixing the 2
nusahim, when should vidui be said?

I would say, stick to your original Ashkenaz, and keep the viduy in
selihot.  Because selihot have nothing to do with Shaharit, only that in
most places they are said in the morning before Shaharit, tachanun is
repeated in Shaharit.

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, May 17, 2009 at 10:07 AM
Subject: Question regarding saying the Viduy before tahanun on weekdays

On Wed, 13 May 2009, Baruch J. Schwartz <schwrtz@...> asked:
> Has anyone seen a distinction made here between fast days, when
> selihot are said during shaharit, and Elul and the aseret yemei
> teshuvah, when they are said prior to shaharit, regarding whether the
> Viduy needs to be repeated before Tahanun (which, on fast days, would
> only be moments later)?

Saying viddui before tachanun is a custom introduced by the Arizal and
was not said previously.

In one shul that I have attended the distinction to which he refers is
observed and viddui is omitted when selichot are said after chazarat
hashatz on a ta'anit tzibbur.

With regard to his last comment, there are in fact two customs as to
when to say selihot on fast days (actually I find them rather slow
especially 17 Tammuz!). The original one, still maintained in
congregations following the German and West European customs, was to
insert them in Slach lanu but most East European communities moved them
to after chazarat hashatz, presumably because of the (in my opinion
unjustified) fear that they would otherwise be a hefsek
(interruption). This is part of the movement to excise piyutim generally
usually ascribed to the Vilna Gaon.


From: Daniel Geretz <danny@...>
Date: Fri, May 15, 2009 at 9:52 AM
Subject: Sefer Query

I recently heard tell of a Shulchan Aruch edition which has the Rama,
and other meforshim in square print (not Rashi script.) Is anyone
familiar with the edition and what section(s) of the Shulchan Aruch have
been published? I need help in tracking it down.

Yasher Koach, Avi, for your dedication to Mail.Jewish.


End of Volume 56 Issue 57